Oh, sleep – glorious sleep! Before you have children, you enjoy every second of the sleep you get, or you take it for granted, there is no in between! Sleep is the one thing that we all have to do to be able to survive, and yet we make the choice to inject a baby into the mix, and that is the one thing that’ll snatch sleep away quicker than you like. Babies are a wonderful addition to any household, but they are sleep thieves and the theft can feel torturous.
In fact, sleep deprivation was something that was used as a method of torture in the war, so that’s a thing you know now. A newborn is not going to sleep for you – and you should know that going into parenthood. Newborns are not supposed to sleep, as waking in the night is a mechanism for survival. They wake to remember to breathe, and they wake to prevent SIDS. Sometimes, they jolt themselves awake as a reflex and mostly, they wake because they’re hungry and want some comfort. Babies have spent nine months in the womb hearing your heartbeat and feeling safe and enclosed. Why would they want to sleep in the cold, open world where they can’t feel your warmth all the time?
With this in mind, you are going to be sleepless for a while, so all you need is to look at the tips and tricks below to survive those sleepless newborn nights. You may be sleepless for a variety of reasons for years, but the newborn days are often the hardest. Here is how to survive it!
Plan Your Nights
How you handle sleepless nights depends on how you intend to feed your baby. Breastfeeding is the preferred option, of course, and if so, you need to make a plan for the waking times with your partner. Just because you are the person who is in charge of frequent feeds, it doesn’t mean that you have to wake alone. Your partner can be in touch with diaper changes and helping you in the night, and yes, it may seem unfair to the outside world if they are leaving the house to work, but it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t help. Plan to take shifts, with you waking to feed and he waking to change the baby. You are in this together and while you aren’t working outside of the house, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t working hard.
You are both going to be tired, so you need to mind your snapping at each other. It’s going to be a big adjustment for you both, but don’t allow it to be a negative thing! Establish a sign that the baby has woken and needs a change or you need support and snacks, and agree not to snap while you do it.
Remember, it’s a baby
You have given birth to a human with feelings and needs. You did not give birth to a digestive system and babies need more than warmth, a full tummy and a dry diaper. They need connection, and there is a good bit of information surrounding the Fourth Trimester that you need to research. You need to keep intoning this to yourself when you feel exhausted – it’s normal, it’s okay and you WILL get through it.
Talk to Someone
A lack of sleep – while it cannot be helped in those early years – can really mess with your head. You need to talk to a professional about how you are feeling, and if possible, you need to get your doctor involved in your own hormones postpartum. It can feel scary to not be able to rest properly and the emotions surrounding that, but you can manage if you speak to people and create a support bubble around you.
Nap Where You Can
We won’t tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps because that’s not always possible and it can feel redundant. However, we will tell you to nap when you can and you are able to. If you are done with your chores and you are able to lay down for a while, do it. There Is no shame in napping around your day to day responsibilities.
If you want to survive the sleeplessness, don’t do everything that all of the books tell you. The Ferber method and the cry-it-out method are largely outdated. Your baby doesn’t need to be trained to sleep, as sleep is developmental and will come with time. They don’t need to be put down “sleepy but awake” because there is nothing wrong with cuddling your baby to sleep. Stay abreast of the research, but go with your instincts and hug that baby longer if you want to.
Have Faith It Will Pass
Sleepless nights do last for a couple of years, but nothing is as intense as the early days. The other things interrupting sleep include teething and sleep regressions, toddler nightmares and bedwetting. But all this, too, shall pass.
Do What It Takes
If bed sharing is what it takes to get some sleep, learn to do it safely. You can get the best bassinet buyer guide for when the baby comes home with you, but make a point of learning all of the safe sleep rules. No crib bumpers, no loose covers – you know the drill. It’s time to make sure that you have a safe sleeping environment – even if the baby won’t sleep at all!
Take Time To Sniff Their Head
Yes, you’re up half the night, but those moments are the sweetest. The dead of night, the warmth of the baby and the sweet moments to feed are the ones you will cherish forever. Embrace those midnight moments because they are the ones that you will carry with you for the remainder of their childhood. The smell of their newborn skin gives you the strength to keep going when it feels hopeless. Sleep will come again soon – believe that!